About and History
The ‘Oasis of the Riverina’ was once the home and hunting ground for the Wiradjuri indigenous people, the area around present day Culcairn was not known by Europeans until November 1824, when Hume and Hovell passed through the area. The second important journey of exploration was made in 1836, when Major Thomas Mitchell, on returning to Sydney from Portland, crossed the Murray River at Howlong and on the 20 October 1836, his journal tells us they passed Gum Swamp (Walla swamp) and Back Creek (later the boundary of Round Hill Station) and camped overnight on the Billabong Creek. The camp site must have been somewhere between King’s Bridge and Kirndeen TSR’s downstream from Culcairn.
Pastoral settlement of the Culcairn district dates back to 1845 when Patrick Hill and James Creighton formed a sheep and cattle run, naming it Round Hill. Following a succession of owners, on the 15
September 1874 a transfer was made from “Henty and Neil” to Hon James Balfour, the founder of Culcairn. Culcairn is named after a large property in the former Shire of Kiltearn, north of Inverness in Scotland. Kiltearn was the birthplace of Hon James Balfour’s mother, who donated land for a school and Presbyterian Church. Mr Warwick Balfour, great-great grandson of the Hon James Balfour owns “Carabobala”, a remnant of the neighbouring Station “Carabobala” which was formed by Elliott Heriot in 1842. Round Hill and Carabobala, both situated on the Holbrook side of Culcairn are still in existence, although today they are greatly reduced in both size and stature.
In 1878 contracts were let for the construction of the railway line between Wagga Wagga and Albury, and the decision was taken to develop a number of towns along its route including Henty, Culcairn and Gerogery. In September 1880 the first train operated from what is now Culcairn, then known as Round Hill. The Station Master’s Residence was built in 1882, and from then on the town began to develop to what it is today The Station Master’s Residence has now been redeveloped as a public museum. Culcairn became a ‘hub’ of the railway system with lines going to (Ten Mile Creek) Holbrook, and also to Corowa in 1892. By 1915 there were 15 railway staff employed in Culcairn.
The first school was erected and opened in 1883, in a rough building between the site of the present school and the railway line. By 1890 the enrolments at the school had increased to 30. A new building was erected on the current site with the land being donated by the Balfour family of Round Hill.
One of the major landmarks of the town is the heritage listed Culcairn Hotel built in 1891. Originally single story, it also had stables and a coach house along with poultry pens and extensive gardens. The building was extended by Mr FW Scholz in 1910 with the addition of a second story, an accommodation wing on the southern side (no longer there) and a shop on the northern corner. In its heyday the hotel had over 70 rooms. People were able to drive their coach or horse to Culcairn and stable it there while they caught the train to Sydney or Melbourne. Passengers dined and overnighted at the hotel which was also the source of the town’s first power supply in 1909.
The first grocery business was apparently situated east of the railway line in Balfour Street, and a Chinese baker started the town’s first bakery, although it is not known when these businesses were started. The area has always been a strong wheat growing district and in 1901 a wheat loading siding was built at the railway station, with further stacking sites added in 1913 and 1918. The responsibility for allocating spaces in the sheds was given to the Culcairn Farmers & Settlers Association, with James Balfour being allocated 5 spaces in 1909. The current silos were erected in 1920.
The Abikhair shops were built in 1903. By 1905 there were two blacksmiths operating in town. The impressive row of heritage listed shops in Railway Parade was built by the owner of the Hotel, Mr Scholz, between 1908 and 1910.
In 1906 Culcairn was chosen as the headquarters for the then newly formed Culcairn Shire, a role that continued until 2004 when it was amalgamated into Greater Hume Shire Council.
Further development of Culcairn was halted by the outbreak of World War I, however, from the 1920s on, growth gained a new momentum. From 1926 the quest for a permanent water supply increased, and by 1932 a well had been sunk successfully and water was piped for the town supply.
Referred to as ‘The Oasis of the Riverina’, Culcairn today is a busy agricultural centre which is enhanced by its heritage buildings, such as the Culcairn Hotel, Memorial Hall, Court House, Railway Station and Station Master’s Residence and provides visitors with a range of recreation facilities with football, tennis and netball courts, public swimming pool, golf course, lawn bowls, cricket facilities and walking and bicycle tracks along with licensed clubs and picturesque parks and gardens.
Culcairn is also the home to multiple Olympic gold medallist, Equestrian Andrew Hoy.